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  Félix Peña

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Thoughts on the occasion of the Twelfth Ministerial Conference of the WTO

by Félix Peña
November 2021

English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza


Argentina and its Latin American partners could, if they so choose, have an influence on the significance of the results of two key meetings to be held at the end of the year.

One of these is the Twelfth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to be held in Geneva from November 30 to December 3. The other is the Mercosur Council Meeting and Summit to be held in Brasilia on December 16.

The significance of both meetings will be seen in the relationship between their results and the necessary process of adaptation of both the WTO and Mercosur to the new realities of the global and regional Latin American trade systems.

With respect to the WTO Ministerial Conference, it will be important to appraise the decisions that may eventually be taken to restore the full functioning of its dispute settlement system, which is key to preserving the nature of a multilateral trade system guided by rules that are effectively enforced.

With relation to the Mercosur Meeting, we will address the subject in our next newsletter, hoping to have more information than what is currently available.

In this year's January newsletter we referred to the importance for a country like Argentina to develop a strategy of active integration in all areas of the international trade system.

We said then that this entails having an updated diagnosis of the factors that make it possible to anticipate significant changes at global level and in the various regions of the world. It also calls for effective organization, both in the sphere of government and of society as a whole, as well as an active policy of cooperation with other nations, especially those of the Latin American region.

With regard to the effects of the pandemic on the future development of the country's foreign trade, we pointed out three issues that seem relevant to us:

The first is to set ambitious, but at the same time flexible, qualitative and quantitative goals for the development of foreign trade, which involve significant leaps in the quantity and quality of the goods and services that can be sold to the world, but also reflect a substantial incorporation of intelligence and technology in the production processes of the goods and services to be exported.

A second issue refers to the country's contribution to strengthening the global multilateral international trade system, including its capacity to facilitate innovative mechanisms with relation to regional cooperation, trade and integration initiatives, especially in the Latin American region and among the developing countries.

A third priority issue is to contribute to ensuring that the group of Latin American countries that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) can play an active and relevant role in the task of building a multilateral and global system of international trade that is efficient, effective and, at the same time, functional to the interests of the region. This is linked to the need to promote different types of partnership agreements with countries and groups of countries relevant to Argentina's foreign trade.

Argentina and its partners in the Latin American region could, if they seek to do so, have an influence on the significance of the outcomes of two key meetings that will take place at the end of the year. One of them is the Twelfth Ministerial Conference of the WTO, which will take place in Geneva, from November 30 to December 3. The other is the Mercosur Council Meeting and Summit, that will be held under the Brazilian Presidency, in Brasilia, on December 16.

The significance of both meetings will be made manifest in the relationship between their results and the necessary process of adaptation of both the WTO and Mercosur to the new realities of the global and regional Latin American trade systems. (In this regard and in relation to the WTO, see our newsletter of January, June and July 2020, and January, March and May 2021. In relation to Mercosur, refer to our January, April, June, July, August, September and October 2021 newsletters).

The WTO Ministerial Conference is the first to be held after the one that took place in Buenos Aires in the year 2017 (see our assessment of this meeting in the December 2017 issue of this newsletter). It should be noted that Ministerial Conferences are scheduled to happen every two years. This year's Geneva Conference will be the first one in which the new Director General of the WTO, Ngozi OKonjo-Iweala, participates alongside her team. The new Deputy Director, Anabel González, a prestigious Latin American specialist who has vast experience in the field of the international trade system and has been Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica, among other relevant antecedents, will also be participating (see Anabel González's resumé on We highly recommend her blog on "Trade Thoughts from Geneva", and especially the September 23, 2021 post entitled "100 days at the WTO. What have I Learned?"" (see Reading it helps to understand the relevance of the upcoming Ministerial Conference in Geneva, especially from a Latin American perspective.

Without prejudice to other relevant issues, the Geneva Ministerial Conference will provide an opportunity to assess the willingness of member countries to restore a key factor for the future of the WTO, namely the full functioning of its dispute settlement system, which has been affected by the relative paralysis of its appellate body.

Regarding the December Mercosur Meeting in Brasilia, we will revisit the subject in our next newsletter, when we may be able to have more information than what is now available.

One issue that should demand special attention will be Mercosur's negotiations of preferential trade agreements with other countries and regions. In particular, it will be necessary to monitor the progress made regarding the future prospects of the agreement with the European Union, which is in the process of final approval, and the agreements that could be negotiated by Mercosur with the other two large markets of the current international trading system, namely China and the United States, but without excluding others such as India and Japan.

Recommended Reading:

  • Beck, Ulrich; Grande, Edgar, "Cosmopolitan Europe", Polity Press, 2007.
  • Gerchunoff, Pablo; Hora, Roy, "La Moneda en el Aire. Conversaciones sobre la Argentina y su historia de futuros imprevisibles", Siglo Veintiuno Editores, Buenos Aires 2021.
  • Holcombe, Charles, "Una historia de Asia oriental. De los orígenes de la civilización al siglo XX", Fondo de Cultura Económica, México 2016.
  • Kennedy, Paul, "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Economic Chenge and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000", Vintage Books, New York 1989.
  • Martirena Auber, Francisco, entrevista a Silvia Karina Fiezzoni, "Ahora, más que nunca, es necesario un TLC entre el Mercosur y China", en Suplemento de los Lunes, diario BAE Negocios, Lunes 4 de octubre 2021, ps. 2 y 3.
  • Mathus Ruiz, Rafael, "Desilusión.. Biden prolonga la distancia con América Latina y crece la frustración", sección El Mundo. Diario "La Nación", 24 de octubre de 2021, página 4.
  • Peña, Félix, "El Mercosur y sus negociaciones comerciales internacionales", Revista Megatrade, año XXX, Nro. 343, Octubre 2021, ps. 116-117, en
  • Peña, Fëlix, "Cuál es la salida diplomática a la actual falta de consenso en el Mercosur", Suplemento de Comercio Exterior del diario La Nación, 7 de octubre 2021, página 3
  • Shaffer, Gregory, "Emerging Powers and the World Trading System. The Past and Future of International Economic Law", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge- New York-Melbourne-New Delh -Singapore, 2021.
  • Sllater, Huw, "China´s steps toward a coal-free future", East-Asia Forum, 14 October 2021, en
  • Stephenson, Neal, "Snow Crash", Del Rey, Penguin Random House, New York 1992
  • Torre, Juan Carlos, "Diario de una Temporada en el Quinto Piso. Episodios de política económica en los años de Alfonsín", Ensayos Edhasa, Buenos Aires 2021.
  • Triggs, Adam, "The G20 needs to do more than recycle the G7 Agenda", East-Asia Forum, 24 October 2021, en
  • Wagner, Gernot, "Geoengineering.The Gamble", Polity Press, Cambridge-Medford, 2021.
  • Waltz, Kenneth N., "Theory of International Relations", Waveland Prees Inc. Long Grove, IL. 2010.

Félix Peña Director of the Institute of International Trade at the ICBC Foundation. Director of the Masters Degree in International Trade Relations at Tres de Febrero National University (UNTREF). Member of the Executive Committee of the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI). Member of the Evian Group Brains Trust. More information. |

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